MOSCOW – Russia’s Supreme Court rejected on Saturday an appeal lodged by opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a bid to overturn a decision by the electoral commission to bar him from taking part in the presidential elections of March 2018 for having a criminal record.
Navalny has said that the charges that led him to be given a suspended prison sentence were trumped up.
“The Supreme Court sees no reason to agree with the appeal, and the decision of the Central Electoral Commission appealed by the plaintiff is legal and well founded,” the ruling said.
The court upheld the argument put forward by the commission at the time for refusing to register Navalny’s candidacy, which was that a person who has been convicted of a serious crime cannot run for elected office.
Navalny’s lawyer pointed out at the Supreme Court hearing that the Russian Constitution does not prevent a convicted person from standing in an election and only refers to people who are in prison at the time of submitting their candidacies.
The lawyer announced he would appeal the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights.
“We knew there would be a political decision, but we will follow all the stages of the appeal,” said Ivan Zhdanov.
The decision to reject Navalny’s candidacy was condemned by the European Union and the United States, criticisms that the Russian Chancellery considered on Saturday “a direct interference” in the internal affairs of Russia.
Navalny, who accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his disqualification, has called for a day of protests on Jan. 28 to back a “strike of voters” in the presidential elections.
Navalny has organized some of Russia’s best-attended opposition rallies in recent memory has been sent to jail three times in 2017.
Putin has held a dominant place in Russian politics for 18 years and polls suggest he is likely to be returned to office.
Navalny has said that banning his participation in elections turns Russia’s democratic process into a farce.